Today I had little time to build another core for Vampire 600. Someone may ask why I wasted time on building core slower and with less memory than original one. Let's say that few people wanted core according to this specifications. MC68000 emulation with memory located at $C00000 - $CFFFFF, $200000 - $5FFFFF space, in total 5 megabytes of Slow/Fast Ram. Another reason is to again prove the concept and how easy could be to upload new core supporting another type of CPU. This core is more compatible with some problematic software. Enjoy :)
I didn't have the time to write much since I was stuck with soldering but I had the time to read various Amiga forums and I was amusing myself reading about happiness of some people when they realized that one of the Vampire 600 accelerators send to UK was not in working order. It is replaced with working one. Don't worry so much I didn't developed all of this to put you out of business. Do you feel endangered in some way? Don't be afraid. What is most important to you? To see Amiga progress or to live from selling outdated products. I must say that my complete concept was success. Users learned how to upload cores to accelerator. I forced serious developers to buy Amiga 600 to be able to work with my hardware. Soon we will have fastest Amiga accelerator ever produced. I m sorry that you made some wrong decisions few years ago. You could find some time to talk with me :) Now, 30 more boards left for me to send, next 300 will be done by kipper2k in short period of time. At the end it is nice to see that people are selling your accelerators to order mine.
Today I received first pictures from new Vampire 600 user. This specific card was sent to ShK for SAKU 2013 event held at the Finnish Science Center Heureka in Helsinki on September 21st but unfortunately card was not there on time so visitors could only see poster of Vampire accelerator at the entrance hall. It took 11 days for package to arrive from Bosnia to Finland. Please look at the other pictures in Read More, Pictures, Files... section of this article.
You may noticed that 3 Vampire 600 boards are send somewhere but no one from pre-order list have been contacted. Don't be mad just read the story. On 21 Aug 2013 I became Apollo Team Member. What is Apollo you may wonder? Apollo-core is fastest FPGA core today and it is based on MC68K series of CPU. Again, you may ask why all of this is important for us? Yes we can run it inside Vampire accelerator series and get fastest Amiga accelerator ever produced. Now you know where are those 3 boards left. For past few days we are doing lot of work regarding optimization of the Apollo-core because original core can't fit into small FPGA used on Vampire 600. New core is taking shape, code named Phoenix, targeted at 100Mips and available as update for current core Vampire 600 is using at the end of November. What is my role in coding you may ask. I will be doing integration of Phoenix to Amiga Bus and few other things. So far I have created 500 lines of code and it seems that I will need to create 1000 more to get it done. All the time I was waiting for the opportunity to work with such names and to learn from them. Don't get me wrong but again I m proud that they recognized my hard work and invited me to the team. Final conclusion is that if all goes well there will be no point of building another accelerators instead FPGA accelerators. I must say that soon no one from other developers will be able to keep up with this.
UPDATE: September 11, 2013
After publishing this information's I noticed that too much people suggesting how and what needed to be done and why all of this is not possible. The same thing happened to most of the Amiga projects where developers just couldn't keep up with various demands. Adding some non standard features to the core usable for only few programmers takes time and most of the people will never notice or use that part. All of those comments created argue in Apollo team so we agreed that we will stop talking about complete project to the day we have first results. I didn't notice anyone contacting me about using schematics of Vampire 600 I published. So instead of talking what and how something should be done do it yourself. Enough said.
I have managed to finish 3 boards and today I will send them. Their destination: Germany. I must say that assembly of the boards is so difficult and when is done detailed testings are performed. Boards are in working condition and very fast. Complete process of soldering and testing can take complete day for just one board so you need to have patience because waiting list is long. I will need to create better assembly team because there is no way I can do all of this alone. I m mad at one more thing. I should concentrate of creating new products for Amiga and instead of doing that I m stuck with soldering because complete process is so delicate and I can't trust anyone. My assembly team made so much mistakes in process of soldering that I wasted five days to discover them.
For some reason I had to see how all of this performs online and I m satisfied! Is it usable in any way? Yes it is! Like you can see on attached video simple web sites can be used, forums etc. Let me say that maybe 70% of the things you normally do online can be done. But, I have a feeling that all of this could be much better if I had opportunity to connect Amiga to different monitor. Strange thing is that MiamiDX didn't worked and it seems that he have some problems with DNS. For best performance I used Voyager and Aweb. I m disappointed to IBrowse because he was slowest so I don't use it at all. Yes I know that everyone said that he is the fastest one but not in my case. It seems to me also that Voyager have very dirty code with strong will to crash sometimes. On other side is AWEB solid and stable and with few tunings maybe can get most from new sites. Strange thing is that new browsers like OWB and NetSurf needs FPU and ixemul libraries optimised for FPU. Conclusion to this would be that developers are going in wrong way because soon we will have emulated MC68K inside FPGA capable of much more than MC68060 with FPU. On other side there is very interesting project called Merlin Web browser who works on regular MC68K and it has support for CSS it is not stable but it has potential for shore.
For some of you this may not look so strange at all but to me, person who actually never had an Amiga before, it was quite surprise to see Doom running on A600. Yes that's because Vampire 600 is doing acceleration but still I had so much questions in my mind looking at this. Without "real" graphic card, without any serious hardware and comparing that to minimum requirements for PC version gives me permission to say PC is just a trash, who stayed alive all of those years because people those days just don't know about anything else. To play PC version of Doom I had to spend serious amount of money back in the days and still game was not playable. On the paper 486 CPU is much better than older CPU's from MC68K series. Some versions are capable of 50Mips or more but for playing this type of games we needed graphic card, sound card and at least 8MB of memory so comparing Amiga 600 with all of this makes me smile. Small machine sitting on the table and able to perform much more than 486 in huge, heavy case with tons of cables and power consumption 10 times greater than A600.
After today's testing I think that I m proud to myself more than ever. Hey!!! I created my own hardware, in some basement, able to play 3D game, able to play Doom. Imagine!!!
As you may noticed some very interesting things are happened regarding this project but news about that I didn't publish on this site. One Vampire 500 was sent to robinson5 from retroramblings.net and it was the one that I used for my testings. This is maybe most important thing happened to complete Vampire FPGA project because we are now in situation that we have opportunity to exchange codes and to point each other what might be a problem. We have already exchanged few mails and codes and it is very interesting to me that we solved few problems but using different approach. It is normal that two people can think different and coding in VHDL is something that is easier to create than to understand what someone wanted to do with specific part of the code. Another great discovery from robinson5 was bad solder joint on A16 trace of Vampire 500 and that was the reason why my code didn't worked. Earlier I have discovered that there was problem with one resistor placed on 7Mhz clk trace so after solving those hardware barriers everything regarding code should not be such problem.
From the start of this project people on various forums are again against my projects talking that Amiga 500 uses MC68K to the max and that I will never be able to create something that is done for Amiga 600. What can I say about that, only few lines of code were needed to be implemented in old code and everything worked. Now we have 3 versions of the code and all of them are working fine and main differences are in solving accesses to MC8600 peripherals.
My project is related to Amiga and creating accelerator cards for Amiga computer. Why Amiga if we have modern computers, for those who are nostalgic those computers are important as air. So if you investigate there are lot of accelerators for Amiga but I m talking about creating worlds first FPGA Amiga accelerator, and I m working on this project more than 2 years. Idea is to create open hardware database, where everyone can build accelerator for their Amiga computers, also improve some characteristics and propose some ideas so we can bring old computers into life so they can act like modern computers supporting some new standards. Why, you may ask just because of that feeling you can't find with modern computers. You are feeling alive and able to accomplish anything, work with any part of that hardware, change it improve it, to be one with that hardware. Also that hardware I need to create is related to VHDL programing language so it can become also open software so anyone with some knowledge to VHDL can get higher speeds with that open hardware. At the end we can have old computers who can support anything like modern ones. So I think that this could bring something to large Amiga community and that they need that web site with open hardware and software for Amiga. Also i have major support from some large electronic companies because there are also some nostalgic people who would like to see my project is working. I had some offers to sold my schematics, codes to some German and American companies but I say no because this needs to be open hard&soft platform free for everyone who likes and lives for old nostalgic computers!!!
Note:Those days everyone knows everything about computers. But they can't understand us and they ll newer will...We just know how to be one with the machine... Let them think that there is nothing more because if they ever find out maybe they will force us to give them all of our knowledge...